This is Jean McMIllen. I am interviewing Patrick Sullivan from the Lakeville Journal who is going to talk about his time and experiences on Mt. Riga, “Tangled Lines” that he writes for the Lakeville Journal and the Journal itself. Today’s date is Sept. 13, 2021. This is cycle 4, file #34.
JM: What is your full name?
PS:Patrick L. Sullivan
JM:What does the L stand for?
JM:What is your birth date?
PS:Feb. 25, 1972
JM:What is your birth place?
JM:How did you come to this area?
PS:My family has a camp on the Lower Lake on Mt. Riga. The Lower Lake is South Pond on the map.
JM:That’s the one with the dam.
JM:When you say as a small child can you give me an approximate year? Mid 1960’s?
PS:I was on the mountain as an infant.
JM:OK that’s great. You were telling me something about the Farmhouse, and that’s you family mountain home.
JM:Tell me a bit about that, please
PS:The main part of it is old, drafty, and home to a diverse collection of mice and things. Then there is an addition to it called “The Annex” that my grandfather and his brother built sometime prior to my arrival in the world. Then there is a deck running around which my grandmother had built in the 1980’s. The entire effect is eclectic architecturally. It was originally, I am a little fuzzy on the details, but my grandfather and Frank Collin and his brother Pat bought it or got it somehow. As succeeding generations developed it became too small to accommodate two or three families. When I was a little kid, we would have me and my brother (Brendan Ed.), my parents, and then my Uncle Frank Sr.’s son
and his wife Jane and their three boys who were about the same age and me and my brother. We’d all be in the farmhouse at the same time. Sometimes with some other cousins too and as a kid, you do not notice these things, but as an adult, I think back on that and it must have been close to intolerable in terms of being all crammed together in space. It was like trying to herd cats with the big kids. So one set of cousins set up a camp: that is the Dwight Collin, Pat’ son. (See Dwight Collin’s interview) Pat’s daughter Betsy and her husband Allen Klutchman remodeled the old barn that we were forbidden to play in because it had rusty farm implements and a fire engine. Of course that meant we went and played with it at every opportunity. They renovated that and then they build a silo next to it with bedrooms.
JM:It is really a silo shape.
PS:It really is. So when you go up to that part of Mt. Riga, you are in the extended Collin family territory. There are three camps: us in the Farmhouse, the Klutchmans in the Barn/Silo and the Dwight Collin Camp which started out as a shed and then it has pupped since with sleeping cabins.
JM:That surprised me when I went up on the mountain that there would be a main cabin and then there would be these sleeping cabins. That intrigued me.
PS:Well if you are on the lake making your way west toward the New York line, you can see the whole Wells family compound. Especially either in the spring or the fall when the leaves are down, every year I go, “Oh there is another one!” up there. It seems as if there are dozens. It must drive the assessor crazy.
JM:You were telling me about a mosquito swarm.
PS:I am guessing I was 8 or 10. I was the oldest of the batch of cousins. We were in a room we called the Dormitory. There were probably half a dozen of us at any rate. We had been sent up there to go to bed, while the adults did their thing. It was a hot summer night. I woke up and saw something was going on. Suddenly the adults were in the room with citronella candles, and fly spray, and all this stuff. There was this black cloud of what turned out to be mosquitoes. They were just shifting and moving around the way birds do when they are in a big flock of birds. It was like that. It was really weird. They rushed us all out of the dormitory to some other area which was presumably less mosquitoey. It seems like it took forever at the time, but I think the whole thing probably took 5 minutes. It was just this freak swarm of mosquitoes. I don’t recall anybody being seriously bitten, or any kind of medical problem. It was just strange and disturbing.
JM:Speaking of medical, your brother Brendan had a fall.
PS:Yes, the top floor of the Silo because where all the kids were to sleep at night. It was kind of a narrow platform about 3-4 feet wide that ran around the inside of the top of the Silo. You can’t stand on it. It was railed off and there was a ladder probably 12 feet. We would just arrange ourselves around the platform in sleeping bags. If you had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night you had to
climb over Dave and Michael, and who ever and make your way down the ladder. My brother had a sleep walking problem. The prevailing theory afterwards was that he was sleep walking, but whatever it was, he fell down the ladder. I am not even sure he had anything to do with the ladder: he may have just gone straight out. Anyway there was this big hubbub: they rigged up a back board out of a piece of plywood, strapped him down with bungee cords or something and loaded him into the Klutchman’s who always had an old jeep, a Wagoneer , the ones with the fake wooden panel. They loaded him into that and took him to Sharon Hospital. He was OK. It was scary.
JM:It was a bit traumatic. As an adult, how much time do you get to spend up there, all of the summer, or a month or…
PS:My family, the Mary Collin Sullivan, (See her interview) which at the moment is just me and Mom, we share with her brother, the late Frank Collin Jr. with his three boys and my cousins Dan, Sam, and Charlie. Dan lives in Seattle, Sam lives in Los Angeles and Paris (he is very cosmopolitan.) So we don’t see much of them. It is mostly me and mom and then Charlie and his family. They live in West Hartford. Typically the way it works is we get it opened up in May sometime, lots of sweeping and lots of dead mice. We get the generator out for water. I usually do that or at least the initial stages of that, just because I am here, and Charlie is not. I usually concede Memorial Day to the West Hartford group although that dynamic is changing because he’s got kids in college now: they are all older and they have all kinds of activities that take managing. I think getting that group on the road as a single unit has become progressively difficult. Generally speaking I just go ahead and let them have the Memorial Day holiday. June is more or less up for grabs. For the major summer months traditionally Charlie and family take July and mom and I take August. This year we switched because Charlie’s kids had summer school which took place during July so it just made sense to switch it around. This year I can’t complain at all because I was up there pretty much non-stop from second week in June all the way to August 1st. So I had a big long stretch of time, most of which there wasn’t anybody around, which is perfect. There is just enough, if you go to the south western part of the house or the deck, you get just enough cell phone signal from Millerton to know that somebody is trying to get you, but not enough to do anything about it.
JM:Oh I like that! Seeing as how you had such a long period up there, what do you like best about being on the mountain?
PS:It’s quiet and stillness and not having to… Because there is no electricity and because the cell phone works at best erratically, it only takes a day or two to shift into a completely different mode that is not contaminated by a constant barrage of messages, most of them irrelevant and unwanted from the various items of technology. When I am just living normally in my apartment in Lakeville, I take those things for granted and I don’t really think about it. But when you are up on the mountain, it becomes, I don’t know why it surprises me, but it does every years, I realize just how much time I spend looking at screens. I am very conscious of it and I make an effort not to look at screens. If I am complaining about it, what is the generation that has never not had a cell phone? What is happening in their brain?
JM:Oh yea, I know when I have been up there and I have only been up there a little bit, but it is so peaceful and so quiet. It is just a beautiful spot. I envy you tremendously. Is there anything that you don’t like when you are up there?
PS:The dead mice, no they are par for the course. It is one of those things you just deal with. Even though we have a good one and we make an effort to keep it clean, I have to say I am not a huge fan of the outhouse. Part of it is because as a child my other grandmother used to read me “Rikki Tikki Tavi”. Somewhere in the back of my mind is the atavistic fear that there is cobra down there and it is going to bite me when I am in a particularly vulnerable position. As far as I know there are no snakes with any sense would hang out there, but you never know.
JM:I should tell you about the outhouse that I used in England, but I did not use it because there was a snake coiled around the bottom. When you were a child, you said there were two rules that were enforced. One was about lights and the other was about swimming.
PS:Right Children were not to handle the kerosene lamps period, for the obvious reasons. It was pretty easy to knock one over and set the joint on fire. If that place went on fire, it would be over in about 10 minutes. The other one was swimming which was children are not allowed to swim at the lake without an adult present. The classic example that I don’t personally remember, but my mother does: we were up there the Collin cousins there were 5 of us boys, my mother and her sister –in-law Jane. It was one of those mornings where everything was a big bustle. Finally they said OK all you kids go down to the lake and wait for us. I was about 10 and the youngest was Charlie who was probably 4. We all trooped down to the lake: whatever it was took longer than they thought to get it together so it was probably about 45 minutes to one hour before mom and Jane came down to the dam. At which point they found me standing in front of my brother and the three Collin boys sitting on the spillway. I was standing in front of them basically saying, “No, you can’t go in the water until the adults come.” There it was. They thought it was adorable.
JM:Naturally! You were enforcing the adults’ regulations. We have just gone through Labor Day, and there are some special activities on Labor Day up on the mountain.
PS:Right There is a tennis tournament, mixed doubles. There are two clay tennis courts up there. It is a fairly big deal. It is a big deal. I got roped into playing one year. The mixed goes as far as it can and sometimes we can’t avoid having 2 men or 2 women, but they try to weed that out in the earlier brackets. I was paired with my Uncle Frank and neither one of us could even spell tennis, much less play it. I do remember playing. The only shot I had and had any success with (meaning could get over the net) was a backhand, baseline shot that looked like it was going to go left and then would die at the last second. I did that 4 or 5 times much to the irritation of our opponents because otherwise neither one of us could do anything. We couldn’t serve: we couldn’t return anything that came over the net with any kind of speed. We got wiped out fast, and subsided gracefully and retired as a popular loser. My mother, who was an avid tennis player back in the day, won it once. I forget who her partner was. I haven’t seen it so much lately, but there used to be some skullduggery in the match-ups. Some camps,
not the Collin’s camps, but some camps would invite guests over Labor Day weekend, who just happened to be really good tennis players. You wonder about those conversations. “Why don’t you come up for Labor Day? It is really nice, relaxing and the lake is beautiful. Oh and there is tennis to play.” I am reliably informed that at certain times sums of money have changed hands, depending on the outcome.
JM:Sport betting, interesting
PS:Well I actually suggested it this year because I’m not that much of a tennis player, or tennis fan. I know enough about it to appreciate it. 10 or 15 minutes of tennis lasts me a year. I said in an off-hand way of Labor Day this year was down at the town courts that some form of gambling would increase the spectator interest, because most of us back there are sitting around shoot in breeze. I don’t think there is a whole hell of a lot of people more interested than I am, frankly. Quad Conquest was organizing the thing with Tom Vail this year. His name is Quad: his name is Arthur Wellington Conquest IV known as Quad. He said, “Oh yeah we talked about that and maybe next year. Maybe’ we’ll have an app.” He knows about apps. Who knows maybe this will occur. The tennis tournament runs over three days, unless it rains which it did this year. This year the Sunday matches were all rained out. In the past sometimes they have gone and finagled their way into Hotchkiss which I don’t think that possible this year because of the pandemic stuff. Quad lives right down the street from the town courts he had that on his mind. Bright and early Labor Day morning and mob of Mt. Riga people descended on the town courts.
JM:Where are the town courts?
PS:On Pettee Street, there are three with hard surfaces. With a sign that says “No consecutive hours”, which was obviously plainly ignored. So I was waiting for some regular town people to come by and say, “Hey!” They would have been greatly outnumbered. So they got all the Sunday matches done. By that time in mid- afternoon, it had dried out enough up top so they were able to play the final match. I forget who won.
JM:Did you have the picnic this year?
PS:We did not. We had sort of a picnic. Below the dam across the road there is an old iron furnace which everybody called the forge which is wrong. I keep telling them: a furnace is where you make the iron, a forge is where you turn iron into stuff, like horseshoes, or cannon, or really sturdy bobby pins or something, but this is NOT a forge. Every year I say this and every year I am ignored.
JM:You are historically correct.
PS:I know I am that is why I keep saying it.
JM:Is that where you have the picnic?
PS:Yeah usually it’s a kind of a pot luck deal and there is a band, a keg of beer and whatever. This year, I didn’t really follow the logic of this. This year is was decided because of the pandemic; it was too risky to have the whole blown affair. So instead we had at 6:30 my cousin Michael and his wife Deedee Dresser who is Jim Dresser’s sister renewed their wedding vows which was nice: then there was dessert which was a pot luck dessert. There wasn’t a keg of beer, but there was lots of wine, soft drinks and coffee: yet the same number of people that would have come to the other thing came. As far as I know they stayed about the same amount of time. So I don’t understand what that was about, unless they thought the band members were super spreaders. It didn’t make any sense to me. I rarely stay at these things very long anyway. I did my thing and got out, plus it has rained so much and that area is a low spot there were a lot of wet feet.
JM:Alright, now we are going to move onto your fishing stories “Tangled Lines”. I understand that that is something that you had done earlier in your career? When did the fishing stories start?
PS:The Albuquerque Tribune which was an evening Scripts-Howard paper. It was one of the last evening newspapers in the United States. It ceased in the mid 1990’s. I am a little fuzzy about that. I basically lived on beer then. Did you know alcohol is a food? It is.
JM:Yes, it is made with malt and malt comes from grain.
PS:Full of electrolytes and stuff. The Albuquerque Tribune had a fishing writer who, either retired or got fired, but he left. They had a competition. I was pretending to be a graduate student at the time. But I had worked in a bookstore with another guy Glenn May from the East and was also an avid trout fisherman. We had combined forces and arranged to have the same days off so we could disappear and go up into northern New Mexico and fish which is one of the great unsung trout fishing places in the world. Glenn and I both submitted pieces to this contest. Glenn ended up getting the gig, but that wasn’t until a couple of years later. They parceled it out between me and Glenn and a third guy. Every once in a while I would get a phone call from the Trib.”Can you write a fishing column for this date?” Sure! I think all told I wrote 4 or 5: then it fizzled out. But that is where I got started.
I was up here: I was working at Mountainside; like the hair club for men guys, before I was an employee I was a customer. I had gone through treatment and the transition program and after I got a year sober they put me on the payroll. I met Ruth Epstein, who at the time was the editor of the Journal, at that Tri-State Trade Fair thing they used to have down at the high school. I had some experience blah, blah. She said, “Write me something and send it in.” I forgot about it. The management shifted around at the Journal: I was kind of ready to get out of Mountainside anyway. I ran into someone, it was either Cynthia or Janet. (See Janet Manko’s interview) I wrote them a fishing column. They liked it and they paid me $35 for it. When I left Mountainside, I cashed in my 401K. I had some wandering around money. I had an old buddy with me (this was in 2004) who was having some weird medical thing. He was a doctor and he could not figure it out so he was going to all his doctor friends in New York. They could not figure it out either. In between bouts of not being able to figure it out, he would have long 2-3 week
lay-overs. I said, “Why don’t you come and hang out with me?” So we spent the summer bouncing between Mt. Riga and our cabin in Phoenicia, New York. The deal was that I would teach him fly fishing, and he would handle the cooking and we’d split the groceries. This was an extremely pleasant summer. At the end of it, it occurred to me that this couldn’t go on forever and I had better get a job. Right around that time the guy at the Journal who had Kent Sharon and sports quit rather abruptly. Over that summer I had done a couple of free-lance things here and there. Cynthia called me up and said, “Do you want the full-time job?” If I had been honest I would have said no, but I would prefer to live the life of a moneyed trout bum, but that was not an option. I said yes, throwing caution to the winds. That began my first stint at the Journal. Since I was the sports desk, I said, “Why don’t I write a semi-regular fishing column?” They said OK. I wanted to call it “Tangled Lines and a Broken Heart”. Cynthia said< “That sounds too much like a country song.” Yeah that is why I said it. They said NO! “Tangled Lines”
JM:You said you had a formula for writing these.
JM:Is this a trade secret or…
PS:No it is obvious if anybody reads the thing. I start out with some technical thing such as “It was cold and miserable but I went anyway because I was bored and I can’t stand basketball on TV.” So I throw in a little bit of narration, add some technical detail, deep stuff like “Tungsten head, nymphs tied on jig hooks or a superior kind of carbon tippet”. That is just to prove to actual anglers that I know something about what I am writing about. Then I throw in a couple of jokes, usually self-deprecating, and some kind of thing to wrap it up.
PS:Quite often the call would come on our old schedule when we printed the paper on site at the old Bissell Street office. Wednesday morning was the absolute drop dead. Quite often late Tuesday afternoon or even early Wednesday morning, the cry would go up “We have a hole in the sports page, can you write a “Tangled?” Yeah “well how long will that take you?” about 15 minutes
JM:Then you never worked at the Journal when it was in the Holley Manufacturing building?
JM:The Bissell building went up in 1982 I think. What is the hierarchy at the paper?
PS:Janet is the publisher and boss of bosses. Cynthia is the main compo
PS:I am using an organized crime metaphor, but this would be a more disorganized crime, and crime is a stretch. Cynthia is the Executive Editor and one of the primary writers. James Clark is the Production guy.
JM:And then there is you.
PS: No then there is Alex Wilburn the Senior Associate Editor. Alex does the bulk of the layouts. Alex and James work very closely together, but James has the other paper to produce, The Millerton paper, the Compass and whatever supplements we are doing. Then there is me, I am the only full time reporter at the moment. We have another young woman named Courtney____ who helps Alex: I think she is a part-timer. I think Alex is part-time. I really don’t know. Then there is Leila Hawken who is a free-lance reporter, Debra somebody is another free-lance reporter. Leila also doubles as a copy editor. We all do. That’s in normal times, when we are all in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays. Everybody reads everything, proof reads it, and also looks for spelling mistakes and that kind of thing. Then there is copy editing which is where you go “Wait a minute, this makes no sense.” The chain of command gets a little fuzzy. Basically it is everybody pitches in.
In the pandemic era hardly anybody is in the office. I have only been there half a dozen times since this thing started. I think that shifts the burden of the copy editor to Janet and Cynthia and Allen.
JM:Do you have routine sources of information that you check?
PS:Yeah, the great advantage in local reporting is that the further down the political food chain you go, the easier it is to get people. So I can get the First Selectman on the phone pretty quick. I can get the state representative and state senator on the phone pretty quick. I can get the Chairman of the Board of Ed. Frequently things that come out in a school board meeting are confusing, and there are a lot of them. If there is a question that needs to be cleared up before I can write intelligently about it and accurately, I can find out and I can find out fast.
JM:What is your current assignment as far as area?
PS:I am the Regional reporter and I cover Salisbury, Falls Village and fishing and anything else that comes up that nobody else can get to.
JM:You have summer interns, don’t you?
JM:Tell me about the Rotary Robert Estabrook Intern Award and how to pronounce Sadie Leite’s name. What is the basis for this? What are the requirements for one to get an award like this? Do you know? (See Bob Estabrook’s interview)
PS: I don’t really. I only see the interns when they are working with me. Over the three weeks that it is supposed to last, but it seems to last longer. Sadie Leite was with us all summer. They are supposed
to get a taste of everything over the three weeks. I suspect one of the main criteria is showing up and being on time and being willing to learn.
(The Rotary Robert Estabrook Intern Award is given to a summer intern who shows the most dedication to the program and the greatest commitment to providing excellent work. Excellent work is defined as being factually correct, intelligently written, and meeting a deadline which is very important in a newspaper. This program is open to all young people in our coverage area. The award is a check for $250 from Salisbury Rotary Club: their name is added to a plaque in the Falls Village office of the Lakeville Journal. Information supplied by Cynthia Hockswender.)
PS:Sadie Leite I think it is light. I think you pronounce the e, but I would not swear to it. She was pretty good.
JM:What was she good at?
PS:Taking directions, and not freaking out when we told her things like “No, don’t record the meeting on you hand computer, in lieu of taking notes because then you have to listen to it again.” Why would you want to do that? If you want to record it because you might miss something or you might be confused, that’s a back-up. You would be far better off taking accurate notes at the time. Then if you are confused, ask the people then and there before they disappear.
JM:Tell me the story about Sam Bradway.
PS:Smilin’ Sam, I met him when he won the Superintendent’s Award in the 8th grade. He was this quiet bug-eyed little kid who didn’t impress me as a towering personality at the time, but clearly intelligent and very soft spoken. I interviewed him: then he got to the high school. I started hearing from some of the teachers that there was this kid who was pretty hot stuff. I forget exactly how it came about. I think I ran into him somewhere and I said, “Sam, you should do an internship with us.” He replied diffidently, “OK.” So Sam ended up interning with us all four years of high school and by the end of it, when he had a driver’s license and was mobile, we were paying him. We put him on the payroll and it might have even extended into the first summer in college. He ended up at American University. It was when the Amesville Bridge was closed for the umptey-umth time, but this time it was closed for good. They had to replace it. Cynthia said<”Go around, take Sam with you, to the businesses in Falls Village and ask them how the bridge is effecting their business.” This is one of those things you think of and examine it a little closer and say,” Ah nope.” None the less that was the gig: the editor rules. Editors will be editors. It was a learning opportunity. So I said, “Come on Sam we are going to go waste a lot of time in doing a dopey thing.” We went down to Falls village. I hung out: there was a wine place on Route 7 which is now closed, there was the Toymaker’s Café which is now is sort of closed or reopened under a different scheme…
PS:Jacob’s Garage, we may have gone to the Falls Village Inn. We did what we could. I think Mike Hodgkins was running the gas station so we probably went to him. I went and took pictures and let Sam do the interview. So we did the best we could. It was not a promising topic. We went back. Because I kept urging the intern to type up their notes immediately before they forget what they mean. Type it up while it is fresh. Sam said, “Why don’t I just write it?” That’s fine. If you want to just cut to the chase, do it that way. So Sam clacked away and I did something else. After a while he was ready: he e-mailed it over to me and I put it into a text document on my computer. It was exactly what you would get from somebody who is described as a precocious sophomore. It started out in one of those passive voices, snarky thing like “You would think that if the bridge was closed…” “Sam, come here, let me show you how to do this.” I highlighted everything except the dateline Falls Village in caps: I highlighted everything he had written and hit DELETE. It all disappeared. Now we start- I took him through it Associated Press style. pyramid construction: it was a perfect opportunity to do that. I took him through it. He paid attention. I stuck both our names on it and sent it on. A couple days later I was in the office for whatever reason. Sam is working on something for Cynthia and I look over his shoulder. He is doing it exactly the way I had showed him. You only had to tell this kid once.
JM:Oh that is wonderful: that’s rare.
PS:He absorbed it. Yeah it is rare. The thing that impressed me and continues to impress me about Sam is that he did not complain about it, probably because he sensed that the market for this would be sluggish or non-existent. He is prudent. Not only did he not complain, but when I worked with him again on another thing, a year later or something, I said, “Sam, you know the rules for how to do this? So if you want to stretch or even break them, go ahead.” He goes, “I already did.” I read what he had written and I said, “Yeah, that you can do. You can get away with that.” A rookie cannot.
JM:You have to have the basics before you can do a little more exploration.
PS:The other great intern was Mari Cullerton. She was one of triplets: all equally brilliant. Mari came to us from the FFA. The FFA which is Future Farmers of America but you can’t call them that anymore because that is not what they are or something. I made that mistake once and was corrected not too gently. The FFA at the Housatonic Valley Regional High School has among its officers a reporter. For the last 18 years or for however long they have been doing this, I have worked with the FFA reporter which the idea that I was teaching them something about newspaper writing. It has been a decided mixed bag: some of them are good, some of them aren’t: some of them took it seriously, some of them didn’t. Mari Cullerton took it seriously from the get-go and like Sam she3 was one of these people whom you only have to show them once, and she gets it. Mari was so good that I think she was still in high school when we were paying her as a free-lancer. She is now doing great things, although what exactly I can’t tell you. She went off to the University of Connecticut and is probably a graduate student somewhere.
JM:You have worked at the Journal for about 18 years?
PS:I am trying to figure that out because I took a break from the Journal for about one year and one half. I was lured back to Mountainside with promise of great riches, incredible innovations in substance abuse treatment and instead I got the second shift.
JM:That is not what you wanted.
PS:It was a mistake. Then Terry Cowgill left the Journal and I came back.
JM:What do you like best about your job? Other than it does not interfere with your fishing?
PS:That is what I was going to say.
JM:You see I wrote down everything you said that last time.
PS:Right. What is fun about is I have a ring-side seat for all these various dramas and comedies of small town life and a great deal of it is local town government reporting. I over the years got a close up view of how things work from the bottom up. I get to talk to people that I wouldn’t otherwise probably run into. All of those are also what I dislike about it because these encounters are not always pleasant, or productive.
JM:That is like teaching.
PS:Yeah. I mean if you don’t have a hide like a rhinoceros, you are in the wrong job here. Then there is the fact that I am lucky to work with Janet and Cynthia. They don’t fuss at me very much. One in a while they get a little fussy which means every once in a while I have to…
JM:straighten out and fly right.
PS:assert myself. Or I have to say, “Oh sorry about that.” We have a good working relationship. Everybody has to do some of everything as we are so small. It is relaxed: it is a good place to work.
JM:There could not be a better accolade. Is there anything else you wish to talk about that I haven’t covered before we close?
PS:I can’t think of anything.
JM:Ok thank you so much.